Industry partnership pays dividends

A partnership between Tait Communications and the Wireless Research Centre at UC has grown from strength to strength over the 10 years since its inception.

  • Two researchers looking at a circuit board

    Dr Graeme Woodward and Mr Fred Samandari.

The successful partnership paves the way for further partnerships that benefit industry, UC and the Aotearoa New Zealand economy. Industry often drives innovation, and in 2007 Sir Angus Tait acted on his firm belief that companies like Tait Communications should collaborate more closely with tertiary institutions.

Initially Tait supported a Professorial Chair at UC, and when the future potential became apparent to both parties, they funded the creation of the Wireless Research Centre (WRC) to work on projects exclusively for Tait and its younger venture, MimoMax Wireless Ltd.

Mr Fred Samandari who became Director of the WRC in 2010, explains how the Centre moved into a new phase on his arrival.

“It was obvious that if we were to grow we could not rely solely on our relationship with Tait, but using what we learned from working with them, we derived a relatively seamless way of working with other companies.

“While we now work on well over half a dozen projects a year outside of Tait, they still remain our strong supporter and highly valued industry collaborator.”

Award recognition

The collaboration led to two KiwiNet Awards in 2014; the Research and Business Partnership Award, for delivering significant commercial value for Aotearoa New Zealand; and the BNZ Supreme Award, for overall excellence in all core areas of commercialisation.

“In particular, these awards were based on the strength of a relationship that encouraged Tait to invest increased funding in the WRC year after year, and to enter willingly into longterm strategic engagement with us,” says Mr Samandari.

“At the time, we were working with them on convergence of traditional professional land mobile standards used by Tait’s existing customers with 3G and 4G cellular standards. This convergence continues, and currently we are preparing for the next generation 5G and working on other standards in wireless communications.

“Not only do Tait’s products need to be relevant to the market, but they need to meet emerging standards, so as to be compliant in a global environment, to support Tait’s broad current and future international customer base.

“Wireless communications are becoming intensely complex, and will continue to do so. This is where we can assist Tait to prepare for, and enable them to continue, competing based on technological advantage rather than cost.”

One of Tait Communication’s main target markets is first responders – police, fire and emergency services, all of which are currently modernising.

Dr Graeme Woodward, Research Lead from the WRC, says their research is helping enable this modernisation.

“Tait’s traditional technologies, based on narrowband wireless communications specific to mission critical applications, are now converging with traditional cellular standards. The WRC is helping with this convergence.

“Tait’s solution is a ‘network of networks’, which focuses on a seamless experience for the end user with mission critical dependability, with the key goals of enhancing both operational efficiency and customer safety.”

Employees from WRC and Tait have access to both facilities, regularly spending dedicated time at each other’s premises. Both Mr Samandari and Dr Woodward are convinced that co-location of staff is an important element in the strength of the relationship.

“These are really important interactions and keep us very close to their technology strategy, which guides us on how best we might assist them. It also has distinct advantages for our student once they graduate.”

Students intrinsic to projects

“Students who work with Tait on their projects are not only quite familiar with the environment and how Tait operates, but actually become an intrinsic part of their latest projects. This means that when they graduate from UC, and start working at Tait, the transition is so smooth that neither party really recognises there has been a change.”

Mr Samandari says that it is in the WRC’s best interests that all their industry partners are successful and continue to grow. “With that growth, comes a need for more and more graduates – engineers, software developers, lawyers, financial analysts and business experts – this has flow-on effects, not just for the University but for the regional and national economy.

“In Tait’s case, we have been actively working to open up new markets for them, outside of their traditional ones. To continue this trend, Tait need to know where to invest for the future, where they need to increase their internal capability and where they would be better off aligning with outside companies that already have the expertise required.

“Our research not only provides guidance in this area, but also ensures our valued collaborator is not suddenly blindsided by the unexpected arrival of new technologies that could have a detrimental impact on their business.”